Charles at 70: Thoughts, Hopes and Dreams by royal correspondent Robert Jobson reveals that Charles was pressured to propose to the then-19-year-old by his father, Prince Philip, after British tabloids falsely reported that the Prince of Wales had secretly brought the teenager onto the royal train for a nighttime tryst.
According to Jobson, Charles, who was 32 at the time, and Diana had only met about a dozen times before he proposed to her, and once they were engaged he realized how incompatible they were.
In the weeks leading up to their wedding in July 1981, “he would try to talk to her about his work commitments and what kind of day he’d just had — and Diana would stare back at him blankly,” Jobson writes in an excerpt published in the Daily Mail.
“I desperately wanted to get out of the wedding in 1981, when during the engagement I discovered just how awful the prospects were, having had no chance to get to know Diana beforehand,” Charles reportedly told friends years later.
So why did he propose? According to the author, it’s because his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, wrote to Charles saying the amount of media attention on Diana was unfair and “he should either propose to her or release her.”
Charles’ cousin Lady Pamela Hicks, who claims to have read Prince Philip’s letter, told Jobson the note “was measured and sensitive.”
The Princess of Wales would later reveal in audio recordings used in the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words that she thought Charles’ February 1981 proposal, which came three months after the train tryst made headlines, “was hysterical.”
“In truth, neither of them was actually in love with the other,” Jobson writes.
Once the engagement was announced, the press frenzy went into overdrive, making Charles feel there was no way out. “To have withdrawn, as you can no doubt imagine, would have been cataclysmic,” Charles reportedly told close friends. “Hence I was permanently between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
Their wedding was watched by a worldwide audience of 750 million, and the couple went on to welcome two children, Prince William and Prince Harry. There were periods during their marriage when the bond between the royal couple was strong, such as after William’s birth in June 1982, but at other times Diana’s moodiness would literally drive her husband to drink, Jobson claims.
In April 1988, Ken Wharfe, the couple’s former security head, recalled a night when the pair had an argument over what time to leave Kensington Palace to attend a state banquet for the king of Norway.
Diana was ready to go and “tapping her feet,” Wharfe told the author, but they had to leave at an appointed time in order to not arrive at the event before the Queen.
“Have I got time for another martini, then?” Charles reportedly asked as Diana got angrier by the minute.
As she insisted that she was just going to go on her own, and likely stir up tabloid speculation about the state of her marriage, Charles ordered yet another martini from his butler and retreated to his study, leaving his wife fuming. They would divorce eight years later.
While Charles was a rock for his sons after their mother died in a car crash in 1997, Jobson reports that the Prince of Wales’ relationship with William and Harry grew frosty last year — and Diana was the cause of it.
The pair were interviewed for a documentary —Diana, Our Mother, Her Life and Legacy — to mark the 20th anniversary of their mother’s death but, whether it was deliberate or not, they never once mentioned Charles.
“It was as if he had never existed,” one of his friends complained, according to Jobson.
The producers of the program later revealed that William and Harry weren’t exactly forthcoming with fond recollections of their mother.
“They prefaced their interviews by saying: ‘We don’t actually have that many memories of our mum,’” Ashley Getting and Nick Kent said. William was 15 when Diana died, while Harry was 12.
Harry later smoothed over things a little with his dad when he was interviewed for a BBC film focusing on the days between Diana’s death and funeral.
“One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is tell your children that the other parent has died,” the Duke of Sussex said. “But he was there for us, he was the one out of two left. And he tried to do his best to make sure we were protected and looked after.”